By Tania HabimanaHere at ABINA, we love inspirational stories of Africans moving and putting our continent in positive spotlight. Last month, we had the pleasure of an up-close and personal interview with none other than Editor-in-Chief of New-York based media company Face2Face Africa (F2FA), Sandra Appiah. Launched in 2011, with the mission of restoring Africa’s Image within the global community, F2FA has been the talk-of-the-moment with the launch of their print magazine, dubbed the “Vanity Fair” of African affairs, that took place earlier this year.
The launch event was held in the prestigious Empire State Building, attracting prominent and influential guests such as playwright, radio host and political commentator Esther Armah, and model Nnenna Agba, and was shortly followed by the west coast launch release, kicking off the Black History month in collaboration with Miss Dunnie O.
At the forefront of all this excitement is Sandra (23), a vibrant, inspired and proud pro-Africa woman today but as she shared with us, she wasn’t always this way. In fact, she grew up very strong feelings of shame of being African. As she explains, growing up in Italy and then moving with her family to the US as an African child was not easy. Those feelings of shame had led her to believe at a very young age that “she” was the problem, the reason why she couldn’t fit in with the other schoolmates.
“Some of my African friends would say that they were Jamaican”
Whilst in fact, the Great Africa that she lived from within her family household simply failed to be represented to the outside world: the only image of Africa that was available came from either war shots on CNN, documentaries on CBS of a remote place in Africa, where people would have unusual habits or images of starving children on non-profit adverts. The only image depicted of Africa to the outside world was in fact, a negative one. One that viciously fed all the misconceptions that were already deeply ingrained.
“Some of my African friends, preferred to say that they were Jamaican than to be associated with the “African booty scratcher” names that some kids would call us. I was teased a lot in school and funnily enough, most of these comments were coming from our black friends. In some cases, I had people that were darker than me, somehow thinking that they were superior to me, because I was African. Because I had an accent or I dressed differently; they would think they are automatically better than me”
About being black
It took a trip to her home country, Ghana, for her to re-instate that sense of pride in Africa and from this, the seed was planted. From sharing and finding commonalities in her experience with friend and fellow then-scholar, Isaac Boateng, and determined to hold on to this new-found pride, Face2Face Africa was conceived in 2011.
“With the mission of first and foremost, give Africa back its pride, rebrand the continent into a positive, strong and growing nation for the generations to come. So that our younger brothers and sisters, would not relive our experience, and could grow up feeling confident and proud of their origins. Secondly, give our peers a media platform. Today, of all nations, as Africans we lack in media representation: platforms, where we can share our experiences and news of our continent: the good, the bad, the truth. And lastly, mend black relations.
What does it mean to be African American? Black British? African? We are all the same, we are all black. And with F2FA we want to redefine blackness, redefine what it means to black”
Going head first (Face to Face) with Africa
It hasn’t been an easy ride. As you can imagine, with every great project comes great hurdles and F2FA has not been spared of them. From overcoming problems in finding by using their own private funds and devoting 200% of their time, Sandra and Isaac have managed to succeed in shifting this project from online to print in January this year with the release of the F2FA magazine – available for purchase online.
“Our main challenge was indeed funding. Whether it was the nature of the project that made it difficult or whether there actually wasn’t enough finance available, I don’t know – but what I do know is that if I wasn’t doing this I wouldn’t want to do anything else. We are all passionate about this. We are a core team of 6 full-timers and devote all our efforts to make this work. We work with independent contractors from all over the world who want to be at the vanguard of this positive development: everyone from photographers, writers to reporters. We want people to see our platform as their platform, that if people have something to say they can write to us and contribute”
The magazine and the story of Sandra since its release has been an inspiration to many, appraised by prominent players in the international media sphere such as Black Enterprise, The Grio, Newsone, Ebony, BET, Madame Noire but also from individuals worldwide.
“We have received a lot of interest and support from all nations, and especially African Americans but what we see in common is people who are tired of the old way of portraying Africa”
Are you tired of the way Africa has been portrayed? What is it like in your country of residence? Share your experiences with us, Tweet it, comment it, Facebook us, whichever, just get in touch, we’d love to hear your stories. And don’t forget to show your support and check out the F2FA website, they have an exciting plateau of events coming up; ranging from the F.A.C.E. list Awards [Fascinating Africans Committed to Excellence] to the “I am an African Professional” mixers in New York and guess what? We’ve heard of more events to come in Europe, so keep checking their news and the latest on Africa.